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Sled support team drives $10,000 to dealership

Dave McMahon, Senior Editor
January 23, 2012
Filed under Features

Pennsylvania dealer drives sales with ATV display

When the local television news crew came in to record the spectacle, Ernie Askins knew his dealership had created something unique.

When Honda officials called to let him know his dealership had claimed the $10,000 prize for winning its ATV “Work and Play”-themed holiday display contest, that’s when the real celebration began.

Askins, co-owner of Off-Road Express West Kawasaki/Honda and Off-Road Express East in Erie, Pa., needed only six months as a Honda dealer to show his enthusiasm.

“We’re new with Honda, but once the line became available in our area, we had to get it,” Askins said. “They make a great product and we’re excited to have had the opportunity. We’d do whatever we could to get it. It’s definitely a great asset and a great add-on.”

The passion for its latest brand was enough to spur the dealership to one of the most intricate displays ever seen inside a showroom. Using “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” as its theme, eight ATVs were hung from the ceiling with care. With antlers placed atop each handlebar, the ATVs were positioned adjacent to each other as they curved their way into a landing pattern. Santa sat in his Honda-branded sled in the back, and Rudolph manned the front row near a Christmas tree that sat next to an uncrated ATV, perfected with a bow.

Off-Road Express in Erie, Pa., attracted local TV coverage on its way to winning $10,000 in Honda’s “Work and Play”-themed holiday display contest.

That’s right — the display featured eight ATVs hanging from the ceiling and a ninth with Rudolph in front. The sleigh sat 25 feet higher than Rudolph. Three TRX 90s had the front spots in the lineup, followed by 250s and 420s in the back.

“How in the heck are we going to hang eight of them? That was our first question,” Askins said. “It took about a week of planning. Our service manager built the sleigh out of plywood, and everybody was dedicated to being the best. Our No. 1 goal was to be the best, to win it. Everybody put a lot of work into just winning.”

The display details on the ground included an elf on a Foreman plowing snow, and another elf holding a sign displaying Honda’s finance program.
Askins answered the obvious question by saying that “we bought the heaviest-duty reinforced cable we could find” at a local hardware store in order to hang the ATVs from the steel-reinforced ceiling.

Dealership staffers paid great attention to detail in arranging the Honda display. “This was the picture we had in mind,” when the project started, dealership co-owner Ernie Askins said.

“The toughest part was getting the ATVs at the right angles to make them look like they were landing,” Askins said. “This was the picture we had in mind, although it usually doesn’t work out that way. When we submitted it to the Honda corporate office, I told them it was exactly what we were thinking.”

Askins and the store’s 11 employees plan to use a portion of the prize to celebrate, then get back to the task at hand — making sales.

“For us it’s all about the business. It’s a great way to get some more product. Of course we’ll have some kind of party, but it’ll all go into product,” Askins said.

How did the display affect the customer experience? The television news coverage of eight ATVs and a sled hanging from the ceiling obviously didn’t hinder sales.

“We’re No. 1 in our district in Honda sales since we built the display,” Askins said. “It’s about sales every day. It definitely has brought us traffic, and it’s nice to have people walk in just to look at it.”

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